Entertainment

Niantic’s first original game in almost a decade is another attempt at striking AR gold

Niantic is using its Pokémon expertise to launch an all-new pet simulator called Peridot.

Peridot screenshot

Peridot enters beta later this month.

Image: Niantic

Niantic is back to making original games. The San Francisco-based augmented reality developer announced its latest title on Wednesday, a pet simulation game it’s calling Peridot, which enters beta later this month.

The game feels and looks equal parts Pokémon, Neopets and Tamagotchi, and involves raising and bonding with genetically unique animals before taking them to real-world habitat sites, where players can breed them with other creatures. There is no capturing mechanic or competitive battling, like in Pokémon, or any risk of your Peridot perishing due to neglect, like with a Tamagotchi.

Instead, Niantic is going for a more relaxing affair that will have you growing your pet from birth to adulthood over the course of a few days, and then creating new variations to “diversify the species” of Peridots. All the while, you’ll be able to open the in-game camera to see your creature out in the real world.

Niantic says it's deploying its most cutting-edge AR features, including one called occlusion in which a Peridot can become obscured by real-world objects and one in which the creatures can identify the type of ground they’re standing on to forage for distinct food types.

“They can differ in their visual experience, personality traits, likes and dislikes, and their abilities. That variation makes for an incredibly deep breeding system,” said Ziah Fogel, a senior product manager and producer on Peridot at Niantic. “Each creature has their own DNA and the breeding system is patterned after how DNA works in real life, but blends the best of hand-created assets and procedural generation.”

Peridot has been in development for roughly two and a half years. Niantic’s shift back toward games of its own creation that aren’t tied to existing intellectual property is a substantial one, considering it hasn’t released an original title since 2013’s Ingress.

Since the success of Pokémon Go about six years ago, the company has focused on partnering with existing brands and media properties, to mixed success. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite was its most high-profile attempt at replicating the global sensation of its AR take on Nintendo’s monster-catching franchise. But Niantic shut the app down in January after less than three years on the market.

A similar attempt to adapt the board game Catan into a mobile AR format didn’t get far either; Niantic canceled the project after a year of early access in select markets. The company did recently release a spin of Nintendo’s Pikmin series to solid reviews, and it still has a Transformers title in the works. But so far, only Pokémon Go seems to have deployed the right blend of a beloved and timeless brand with novel AR features and gameplay.

In that sense, there is a lot riding on Peridot for Niantic, which raised $300 million in November at a valuation of $9 billion on the promise of both its cutting-edge AR technology and its ability to deploy that technology in interesting and commercially successful formats.

The company has not yet proven there is a substantial mobile AR market beyond Pokémon Go. And while big tech companies like Apple, Meta and Microsoft have all invested significant resources into developing existing and next-generation AR glasses and headsets, those devices are many years off. (Niantic is also invested in the hardware space thanks to a partnership with Qualcomm, but it’s not clear whether the partnership will result in consumer products rather than reference designs.)

More recently, Niantic has turned its tools into a developer platform it calls Lightship in the hopes that other game-makers and companies can use AR to make another hit as potentially major as Pokémon Go. This has coincided with a turn toward the metaverse, with Niantic proclaiming its vision for the future is one with a “real-world metaverse” that doesn’t trap users inside wearing headsets.

“We believe we can use technology to lean into the 'reality' of augmented reality — encouraging everyone, ourselves included, to stand up, walk outside, and connect with people and the world around us," Niantic CEO John Hanke wrote last year in a blog post that called the metaverse a potential “dystopian nightmare.”

Games like Peridot, in that context, have two missions: They first and foremost have to be fun and engaging, but they also have to help highlight and promote Niantic’s particular vision for both AR gaming and the metaverse, a vision that wants people outside, moving around and hanging out with friends in the real world. Then, of course, they also have to make money; Niantic says it’s intending to include a number of microtransactions in the game, similar to those found in Pokémon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.

Peridot, as an original game, may not be an overnight success or a worldwide phenomenon like Pokémon Go — it’s unlikely any game now or in the future will be able to have as large an impact on AR gaming until the arrival of mainstream smart glasses.

But Niantic doesn’t necessarily need another Pokémon Go. It just needs to prove it can use the gaming format to push mobile AR even further, and at the same time show just how sophisticated the tech can be on smartphones. And with Peridot, the company is also hoping it can achieve one of the most sought-after goals in gaming: expanding its audience.

“We think Peridot will appeal to a wide range of audiences across age and geography. We’re targeting a pretty casual audience,” Fogel said. “We hope to reach people who may not consider themselves gamers at all.”

Policy

How 'Zuck Bucks' saved the 2020 election — and fueled the Big Lie

The true story of how Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s $419 million donation became the 2020 election’s most enduring conspiracy theory.

Mark Zuckerberg is smack in the center of one of the 2020 election’s multitudinous conspiracies.

Illustration: Mike McQuade; Photos: Getty Images

If Mark Zuckerberg could have imagined the worst possible outcome of his decision to insert himself into the 2020 election, it might have looked something like the scene that unfolded inside Mar-a-Lago on a steamy evening in early April.

There in a gilded ballroom-turned-theater, MAGA world icons including Kellyanne Conway, Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks and former president Donald Trump himself were gathered for the premiere of “Rigged: The Zuckerberg Funded Plot to Defeat Donald Trump.”

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Sponsored Content

Why the digital transformation of industries is creating a more sustainable future

Qualcomm’s chief sustainability officer Angela Baker on how companies can view going “digital” as a way not only toward growth, as laid out in a recent report, but also toward establishing and meeting environmental, social and governance goals.

Three letters dominate business practice at present: ESG, or environmental, social and governance goals. The number of mentions of the environment in financial earnings has doubled in the last five years, according to GlobalData: 600,000 companies mentioned the term in their annual or quarterly results last year.

But meeting those ESG goals can be a challenge — one that businesses can’t and shouldn’t take lightly. Ahead of an exclusive fireside chat at Davos, Angela Baker, chief sustainability officer at Qualcomm, sat down with Protocol to speak about how best to achieve those targets and how Qualcomm thinks about its own sustainability strategy, net zero commitment, other ESG targets and more.

Keep Reading Show less
Chris Stokel-Walker

Chris Stokel-Walker is a freelance technology and culture journalist and author of "YouTubers: How YouTube Shook Up TV and Created a New Generation of Stars." His work has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian and Wired.

Fintech

From frenzy to fear: Trading apps grapple with anxious investors

After riding the stock-trading wave last year, trading apps like Robinhood have disenchanted customers and jittery investors.

Retail stock trading is still an attractive business, as shown by the news that crypto exchange FTX is dipping its toes in the market by letting some U.S. customers trade stocks.

Photo: Lam Yik/Bloomberg via Getty Images

For a brief moment, last year’s GameStop craze made buying and selling stocks cool, even exciting, for a new generation of young investors. Now, that frenzy has turned to fear.

Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev pointed to “a challenging macro environment” marked by rising prices and interest rates and a slumping market in a call with analysts explaining his company’s lackluster results. The downturn, he said, was something “most of our customers have never experienced in their lifetimes.”

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Enterprise

Broadcom is reportedly in talks to acquire VMware

It hasn't been long since it left the ownership of Dell Technologies.

Photo: Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Broadcom is said to be in discussions with VMware to buy the cloud computing company for as much as $50 billion.

Keep Reading Show less
Jamie Condliffe

Jamie Condliffe ( @jme_c) is the executive editor at Protocol, based in London. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, he worked on the business desk at The New York Times, where he edited the DealBook newsletter and wrote Bits, the weekly tech newsletter. He has previously worked at MIT Technology Review, Gizmodo, and New Scientist, and has held lectureships at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London. He also holds a doctorate in engineering from the University of Oxford.

Podcasts

Should startups be scared?

Stock market turmoil is making VCs skittish. Could now be the best time to start a company?

Dark times could be ahead for startups.

Photo by Startaê Team on Unsplash

This week, we break down why Elon Musk is tweeting about the S&P 500's ESG rankings — and why he might be right to be mad. Then we discuss how tech companies are failing to prevent mass shootings, and why the new Texas social media law might make it more difficult for platforms to be proactive.

Then Protocol's Biz Carson, author of the weekly VC newsletter Pipeline, joins us to explain the state of venture capital amidst plunging stocks and declining revenues. Should founders start panicking? The answer might surprise you.

Keep Reading Show less
Caitlin McGarry

Caitlin McGarry is the news editor at Protocol.

Latest Stories
Bulletins